Scott McLaughlin has made a statement in practice at the Newcastle 500.  Picture: David Rowland/AAP
Scott McLaughlin has made a statement in practice at the Newcastle 500. Picture: David Rowland/AAP

McLaughlin leads the way in practice at Newcastle

SUPERCARS series leader Scott McLaughlin has thrown down the gauntlet to rival Shane van Gisbergen by clocking the fastest practice time ahead of this weekend's Newcastle 500.

McLaughlin topped the second practice session's time sheets on Friday with a blistering lap of one minute, 10.47 seconds ahead of seven-time series champion Jamie Whincup and Ford's Cameron Waters on the tough street circuit.

Holden's Van Gisbergen was seventh fastest.

Ford hero McLaughlin will hope to have landed a psychological blow on fellow Kiwi van Gisbergen before they tangle for the title in the Supercars season finale this weekend.

"Overall we have had a really good day. We have learned a lot," McLaughlin said.

"It's going to be all about qualifying here. Track position is key."

Vying for his maiden Supercars title, McLaughlin has a 14-point series lead over van Gisbergen ahead of the final round, ensuring the closest finish to the championship in a decade.

McLaughlin earned a confidence boost with his final effort after only being 15th fastest in Friday's opening practice session.

In the final round of his 22-year career, retiring Holden great Craig Lowndes was 12th fastest in second practice.

And Ford's Mark Winterbottom - who has sensationally announced he will switch to Holden next year - was 15th in Friday's final session.

The 2018 Supercars title will be decided by 95-lap races on Saturday and Sunday.

Qualifying starts at 11.35am (AEDT) on Saturday.

- AAP

News Corp Australia

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